NFL Conference Championship preview

NFL Conference Championship weekend preview and picks

We can only hope the NFL’s Conference Championship weekend is half as competitive as last weekend was. Three of the four games were nail biters, which made for some strange results in terms of predictions.

As has been the case throughout the postseason, games will be picked both straight up and against the spread. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing. You can see last week’s picks here.

Last week: 1-3, 3-1 against the spread.

Postseason totals: 4-4, 5-3 against the spread.

Jaguars at Patriots

Three teams have gone into New England and won a playoff game in the Brady-Belichick era, two Ravens teams led by John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco and one of Rex Ryan’s Jets teams. All these teams had one thing in common: They ran the ball and were very good on defense.

With the top ranked rushing offense and a sack happy defense that has dominated all year long, Jacksonville certainly fits that bill. This will not be a simple coronation for the Patriots. Just because the Jaguars approach to winning games is fairly bland does not mean they do not deserve to be here.

That defense will keep this interesting for four quarters. However, there are three pieces of insurmountable bad news for the underdogs. First, Blake Bortles is still their quarterback. Second, Tom Brady is the opposing quarterback. Finally, Bill Belichick is not going to run 15-yard pass plays on 4th and 1 or run an onside kick with two timeouts and more than two minutes left like Pittsburgh did last week.

One of the biggest yet simplest reasons New England has been so good for so long is they never make in game strategy calls that leave even casual fans scratching their heads in the moment. As good as they are, the Jaguars needed a lot of help to outscore the Steelers last week. New England will not be so generous this week.

Winner: New England

Good bet: Patriots (-9) NE 31 Jac 20

Vikings at Eagles

Something has to give here. These two teams have mastered the art of the playoff choke job over the years. Now one of them is going to the Super Bowl.

At this point in this season, these teams are going about winning games the same way. They both rely on their great defenses to make up for limitations at quarterback. Make no mistake, Case Keenum and Nick Foles have limitations.

Foles only threw for 246 yards last week against Atlanta. However, he did not make a big mistake that crippled the team. When you have a defense that is capable of holding what was a hot Falcons offense to just 10 points, that formula is good enough.

NFL Conference Championship preview

Photo from espn.com

Keenum tried to make that crippling mistake with his late third quarter interception that sparked the Saints comeback last week. However, he and the Vikings were bailed out by a miracle finish that was more blind luck than anything else. There is no shame in that. Every Super Bowl champion there has ever been has required some degree of luck.

What this game comes down to is both teams will try to run the ball. It is hard to imagine either having much success against two of the best front sevens in football. So which average quarterback will do a better job of getting the ball to their playmaking pass catchers?

Well, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen each caught over 60 balls in the regular season and accounted for several of Minnesota’s 10 third down conversions last week. Meanwhile, the Eagles pass catchers have virtually disappeared since Carson Wentz went out. Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery had seven catches combined last week. They need to have somewhere around seven catches each should Philadelphia struggle on the ground in this one.

Moreover, if there is a weak spot on either defense, it is the Philadelphia secondary. They got torched by the lowly Giants twice this year.  There is no reason Diggs and Thielen should not carry their team to a home Super Bowl.

Winner: Minnesota

Good bet: Vikings (-3) Min 23 Phi 17

 

Featured image from chatsports.com

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NFL divisional playoffs picks

NFL divisional playoffs preview and picks

We were fortunate enough to get four reasonably competitive games to kick off the NFL playoffs last week. You can check out last week’s picks here.

For this week’s divisional playoffs, games will be picked both straight up and against the spread. Outright upsets have an asterisk. All point spreads are from rtsports.com at the time of my writing.

Postseason record- 3-1

Postseason record against the spread- 2-2

Saturday

Falcons at Eagles – For the first time since the NFL adopted its current playoff format, a sixth seed is favorite over a home standing top seed. This is not without merit though. Without Carson Wentz, the Eagles are just another average to below-average football team. In the final two games of the regular season, Philadelphia’s offense accounted for a grand total of 13 points, and the team as a whole was pushed around for long stretches by the non-playoff bound Cowboys and Raiders.

The above paragraph is not a good recipe for taking on the Falcons at the moment. Atlanta needed to win as much as humanly possible late in the regular season to keep its playoff hopes alive. The sudden death nature of the NFL playoffs changed nothing for them last week. They have been in that situation for almost 2 months.

Reigning MVP Matt Ryan and the offense are not quite the juggernaut they were last year, but they are still very good. What has sparked Atlanta’s late-season run as much as anything is defense. The Falcons have not surrendered more than 24 points in a game since Week 11. This includes holding the top-ranked scoring offense to just 13 points last week. If all the offense has to do is score in the high 20s, this team is tough to beat.

Apart from winning a shootout with the lowly Giants, the Eagles offense has not gotten anywhere close to the high 20s with backup quarterbacks since the injury to Wentz. Philadelphia’s defense is pretty good and has stood on its head in recent weeks to keep the Eagles in games. Thus, this will not be a blowout.

However, one of these teams is quarterbacked by Matt Ryan and the other by Nick Foles. Sometimes, it is just that simple.

Winner: Atlanta

Good bet: Falcons (-3) Atl 21 Phi 13

Titans at Patriots – Tennessee did a great job of making a few plays to pull off the big upset in Kansas City last week. However, that result had more to do with Kansas City’s collapse. If New England has a double-digit lead, whoever is playing running back will get the ball a lot more than 11 or 12 times.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from USA Today

You can’t help but be impressed with the resilience and toughness of Tennessee. That roster is not good enough to get to this point on talent alone. Different guys have stepped up for them all year long. Last week, it was Marcus Mariota playing with his head on a swivel to complete a touchdown pass to himself and Derrick Henry rushing for 156 yards in the absence of backfield mate DeMarco Murray that made the difference.

However, the Titans lack the firepower to really make the Patriots nervous in a playoff game. At this point, nothing more can be said about the greatness of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. They are 25-9 in playoff games. Moreover, only three of those nine losses have been at home. Tennessee will keep this close for a while with solid fundamental football, but New England will pull away late.

Winner: New England

Good bet: Patriots (-13) NE 34 Ten 20

Sunday

Jaguars at Steelers – Vegas is showing great restraint by making the Steelers only a seven-point favorite here. With the way the Jacksonville passing offense has looked for the last month, a double-digit spread would have been perfectly reasonable.

However, the Jacksonville defense has shut down some very good offenses this year. The Jaguars went in to Pittsburgh early in the year and intercepted Ben Roethlisberger five times in a route.

Also, there is more than one way to look at the performance of Blake Bortles last week. It is easy to say he threw for just 87 yards and therefore was completely awful, or you can commend him for his 88 rushing yards and ability to make enough plays for his team to win, even though he did not play very well.

Not very many people have subscribed to the second school of thought leading up to this game, but I am one of them. With a great supporting cast around him, Bortles is fine. Other than one or two games, Jacksonville has had no problem scoring points this year. Almost every offense is going to get shut down at least once or twice a year, no matter who the quarterback is.

Jacksonville is too good to get blown out. Any team that leads the league in rushing offense, as well as several defensive categories, is capable of going anywhere and beating anyone. However, Roethlisberger getting Antonio Brown back will be the difference in this one. Even if Brown is not fully healthy, his presence alone gives the vaunted Jacksonville defense another thing to worry about on a loaded Steelers offense.

Winner: Pittsburgh

Good Bet: Jaguars (+7) Pit 27 Jac 24

Saints at Vikings – No team was more impressive than New Orleans last week. All year, the Saints had done most of their damage by running the ball with Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara. Carolina held that duo to under 50 combined rushing yards. The Saints still managed to win. Drew Brees showed us all why he is going to the Hall of Fame someday.

NFL divisional playoffs picks

Photo from si.com

Unless there is a truly dominant team, whoever wins the Super Bowl has to find a way to win a game or two where its best stuff is not working. There is no dominant NFL team this year, and that is exactly what the Saints did last week.

This week, the task is a little bit tougher as New Orleans goes on the road to face another very stout defensive unit in Minnesota. The vast majority of Minnesota’s success this year has come from backups, castoffs and other spare parts. Mike Zimmer and his staff have done an incredible job of getting the most out of Case Keenum. Keenum has nearly doubled his career touchdown passes this season. However, much like the other NFC matchup this weekend, it is foolish not to take the established star quarterback over the journeyman in playoff football.

Winner: New Orleans

Good Bet: *Saints (+ 5.5) NO 27 Min 20

 

Featured image from chiefs.com

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Bill O'Brien

Letting Bill O’Brien go would be insane

The NFL regular season is fast approaching its end. For many organizations, that means speculation about the future of their head coach is running wild. Like any other year, there are many names being run through the rumor mill, but one makes no sense. The Texans would be making a huge mistake by moving on from Bill O’Brien. Here is why.

For the most part, he has won despite a quarterback carousel:

2017 will be the first losing season for O’Brien as an NFL head coach. These are the starting quarterbacks he has had to work with. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Mallet, Tom Savage, the pre Vikings version of Case Keenum, Brian Hoyer, T.J. Yates, Deshaun Watson, Brock Osweiler, and Brandon Weeden.

One of those names requires further explanation later on, but the others are mostly the same bad quarterbacks that get recycled throughout the league whenever a team gets stuck in quarterback purgatory. Yet, O’Brien has won two division titles and a playoff game in Houston.

His primary starting quarterbacks for the division winning seasons were Osweiler and Hoyer. Osweiler had more interceptions than touchdown passes on the 2016 playoff team. Hoyer had a passer rating of barely over 60 in 2015. Forget firing him, O’Brien deserves a statue for pulling that off.

Injuries:    

No head coach is completely blameless for a team’s poor season, but the Texans have just had too many injuries to stay competitive this year. The future looked bright as Watson got off to an unbelievable start. The rookie accounted for 21 touchdowns in just six starts and Houston looked like a true contender in the AFC.

J.J. Watt

Photo: Huffington Post

A torn ACL in practice ended all that. No matter how unstable the quarterback situation became, O’Brien and the Texans could always count on a stout defense to win games. That was not the case this year as top defenders J.J, Watt and Whitney Mercilus also went down to season ending injuries relatively early.

Other than Bill Belichick, no coach on planet Earth is capable of adequately overcoming long term injuries to three of their best players. Additionally, if Watson comes back healthy next year, there is no reason Houston cannot contend again. Watson has voiced his support for O’Brien.

The ownership angle:

O’Brien has a year remaining on his contract. A lame duck coach situation never benefits a franchise.  Thus, it is rare, but not unheard of for a coach to enter the final year of a deal. So, the offseason in Houston should be interesting.

Given that Houston signed Osweiler to a big money contract without O’Brien even meeting him after the 2015 season, lingering friction between owner Bob McNair and the head coach would not be surprising. McNair also made O’Brien’s life more difficult more recently by making some inflammatory remarks regarding the never ending national anthem controversy that put Texans players at the forefront, whether they wanted to be there or not.

Bob McNair

Photo: zambio.com

The bad news for O’Brien is that the owner never fires themselves if there is friction with the head coach. However, ownership is not innocent in Houston’s double digit loss 2017 season. O’Brien has done a fine job in Houston and will continue to do so given the opportunity.

Texans management may not like O’Brien, but it would be difficult to find a replacement that would be an upgrade. The 49ers thought they would be better off without Jim Harbaugh. They are just now starting to dig out of the abyss after almost four years of varying degrees of losing. To avoid a similar fate, Houston needs to keep O’Brien in the building.

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NFL Thanksgiving reactions

Thanksgiving Day football is a tradition like none other. A bunch of NFC teams battle it out while we stuff our faces with turkey and stuffing while hiding in the TV room with all the uncles and cousins.

These three games gave fans a lot of insight on these teams, like who is in and who is out, the contenders and pretenders of the NFC. While some fans could celebrate, some were crying into their gravy, and that’s what we love about the NFL.

The Cowboys Are Dead

NFL Thanksgiving reactions

(Philly.com)

Cowboys fans left home disappointed once again after Dak Prescott found the Chargers DB’s more than the endzone. The turkey day loss brings the losing streak to three games for the Boys and it dosen’t look like they can stop the bleeding.

The injury report for the Cowboys has been another issue, as the defense is decimated. With both linebackers Sean Lee and Anthony Hitchens out, the middle of the field has been wide open for opposing offenses.

The offense has stagnated since the loss of Eziekel Elliott, only scoring one touchdown in three weeks. The opposing defenses have not been giving the Dallas run game any respect and have sacked Prescott 14 times in three weeks.

With Zeke not retuning until week 16, the Cowboys’ playoffs hope are slipping away. With no chance of catching the Eagles in the NFC East, the wild card spots are also slowly slipping away.

All the hype surrounding the Cowboys at the beginning of the season had died away with the most recent loss and fans should set their sights on next year. All they need to do is get the offensive line healthy and add some depth on defense and they can make a serious run in 2018-19.

Minnesota is for Real

NFL Thanksgiving reactions

(Daily Norseman)

The Vikings stuffed their faces on Thanksgiving against the Lions in a battle for NFC North supremacy. If the Lions could have beat out the Vikings they would have the gap for first place by one game.

But Lions fans left Ford Field with a bitter taste in their mouth as the Vikings slowed down the Detroit come back in the second half winning the game 30-23.

Case Keenum has been on fire in recent weeks, boasting a 70 percent completion percentage over the last three weeks while racking up seven touchdowns.

The Vikings are on an impressive seven-game win streak and the last loss coming in week 4 to the same Lions that they just beat in Detroit.

The quarterback situation in Minnesota is strange to say the least, with Teddy Bridgewater dressed and presumably ready to go when do the Viking pull the trigger and send him in. How long are they planning on riding the hot hand of Keenum?

Whoever the Vikings go with moving forward it seems like the whole team is firing on all cylinders and finding ways to win close games. With so many teams in the NFC battling injuries it’s safe to say the Vikings are a lock for the post season.

 

Featured Photo By The Viking Age

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Thanksgiving fantasy football

Thanksgiving games week 12 fantasy turducken MVPs

Thanksgiving is now here. It’s time for turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pie and most importantly, football.

That’s right, it’s time for the tradition of the Thanksgiving games.The first two are hosted by the Detroit Lions and the Dallas Cowboys. The Lions will host their NFC North rival Minnesota Vikings, and the Cowboys will play the Los Angeles Chargers. Then the late game is an NFC East battle where the New York Giants head to play the Washington Redskins.

One part about the Thanksgiving games that I miss is John Madden and the turducken award. So for this article, it’s time to bring the turducken award back and predict who will have big fantasy days in each game.

Vikings-Lions MVP: Adam Thielen

The Vikings have been red hot, winning their last six games. That is partially due to their players stepping up with injuries, like Case Keenum playing well and the run game executing without rookie Dalvin Cook. One guy that has been having a surprise season and dominating the last two weeks is receiver Adam Thielen, who is my pick to be the first fantasy turducken winner against the Lions.

Thanksgiving fantasy football

Adam Thielen (Photo from vikings.com)

Over the last two games, Thielen has caught 14 passes for 289 yards. He has caught a touchdown in the last three. The last time the Vikings played the Lions, they lost 14-7, and Stefon Diggs was the better receiver. This time it’s a different Vikings team, and I also expect Thielen to outperform Diggs with the possibility of having Darius Slay on him for the entire game.

Thielen is second in the NFL, only behind Antonio Brown, in receiving yards. He is also tied for fifth in receptions. Thielen is currently on a three-game streak of scoring over 20 points. He’s also only one of five wide receivers with at least four fantasy games in the 20s or higher.

The Lions have allowed the ninth most passing yards to the slot since Week 4. Expect the Vikings to throw some deep shots to Thielen as he’s tied with Brandin Cooks for the most deep (15-plus yards) receptions.

At this point, Thielen is a must-start receiver every week as he has become a favorable target for Keenum.

Chargers-Cowboys MVP: Alfred Morris

The Cowboys have struggled the past two games without Ezekiel Elliott and Tyron Smith. They played the desperate Atlanta Falcons and the Philadelphia Eagles, possibly the best team in the NFC. This week is the time for them to turn it around against an inconsistent Chargers team. For this game, this is when the run game will pay off, and Alfred Morris will have a monster game.

Thanksgiving fantasy football

Alfred Morris (Photo from cbssports.com)

Last week, Morris ran for 91 yards on 17 carries. In fact, Morris had more rushing yards than Dak Prescott had passing yards before the fourth quarter. His performance was especially impressive since the Eagles entered the game having allowed just 3.6 yards per attempt.

Morris has gotten better as he has seen more carries and is only getting better. He’s averaging 5.1 yards per carry in the two games since Elliott got suspended. With Darren McFadden a healthy scratch and Rod Smith not performing, Morris should only get more carries until Elliott comes back.

Dallas is at home against a Chargers team that is allowing a league-high 138.9 rushing yards per game and the second-most yards per carry (4.93). Playing against the 30th ranked team against running backs means Morris will be getting the ball a ton early in the game.

Giants-Redskins MVP: Vernon Davis

Even with injuries to Chris Thompson and Terrelle Pryor, the Redskins should still be efficient on offense. The turducken award in this game goes to tight end Vernon Davis.

Thanksgiving fantasy football

Vernon Davis (Photo from sports.yahoo.com)

When it comes to the tight end against the Giants defense, it’s the worst in fantasy. They have given up a touchdown every game but last week. However, they still gave up 120 yards to the position.

During Jordan Reed’s three-week absence, Davis has averaged 8.7 targets, 5.3 catches and 71.7 receiving yards. Last week he had six targets and 67 receiving yards. Dating back to Week 6, Davis leads the Redskins in receiving yards (367), is tied for second in receptions (25) and is second in targets (38). With Reed missing practice, it’s likely Davis will get the start again against the Giants.

The Giants have yielded a league-high 19.6 PPR points per game to this position. With this matchup, he has to be a must-start, even at the flex position.

 

Featured image from sbnation.com.

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Hagan's Haus NFL picks week 11

Hagan’s Haus 2017 NFL picks week 11

Welcome to Hagan’s Haus, where football is the only thing that matters. You won’t find me in a church on Sunday because football is my religion and the No. 1 priority in my life. I am so excited that the NFL season is finally back in action! I pride myself on studying the game of football. We can’t get all our picks or predictions right, but I am going to leave it here in the open every week for everyone to see. In Hagan’s Haus, it’s all about bragging rights. 

Who is the best? Because winning is the only thing that matters. We don’t get points for second place. I challenge you to post comments on your weekly picks and compare them to mine. This isn’t about point spreads. I will give a score prediction, but winning is winning. Doesn’t matter if it is by an inch or a mile. So try and beat me in picking NFL games. I promise you it won’t be easy, but it will be fun. Here are Hagan’s Haus 2017 Week 11 NFL picks.

Last week: 12-2

Overall: 86-59

Teams on byes: Carolina, Indianapolis, New York Jets, San Francisco

Thursday Night

Tennessee Titans (6-3) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (7-2):

 

Sunday Morning

Hagan's Haus NFL picks week 11

(Photo Credit: https://thevikingage.com)

Detroit Lions (5-4) 27 @ Chicago Bears (3-6) 16: When the Bears finally decided to start Mitchell Trubisky some thought they would make a run at the playoffs because Aaron Rodgers went down. The Bears are not going to do that and will be lucky to win six games this season but the future is bright. Matthew Stafford should have a field day at Soldier Field to send the Bears to 3-7.

Jacksonville Jaguars (6-3) 23 @ Cleveland Browns (0-9) 6: Cleveland will get another step closer to 0-16 this week as the Jaguars come to town. Jacksonville’s defense could force a shutout this week as they are allowing the fewest points per game at 14.9 while the Browns are averaging just 15.9 points per game. It would be a major upset if the Browns found a way to win.

Baltimore Ravens (4-5) 20 @ Green Bay Packers (5-4) 22: Neither team is really good but the Packers are struggling because they lost Aaron Rodgers. Baltimore is struggling because they have no offense. The edge should go to Baltimore because they are coming off a bye but they have to travel to Lambeau. I have no clue what will happen in this game but I have a feeling that Brett Hundley will have a big game.

Los Angeles Rams (7-2) 23 @ Minnesota Vikings (7-2) 24: This is the best game of the week and it should be in primetime. Both teams are 7-2 and in a battle for the second seed in the NFC. It is also a clash of styles with as the Rams have the third-ranked offense and the Vikings have the fifth-ranked defense. Typically in the past, when top defenses square off against top offenses the defenses win. That, paired with the Vikings playing at home gives Minnesota the edge. The Vikings win to continue their path towards a Super Bowl run.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) 27 @ Miami Dolphins (4-5) 26: These two teams are playing the game they missed in week one due to Hurricane Irma. Both teams were expected to make a playoff appearance but now it looks like neither will as both have looked horrible this season. This will be a dull game that is watched by few. Heck, picking the winner might come down to a coin toss. Actually, it will be a coin toss. Heads Tampa wins, tails Miami wins. It was heads.

Washington Redskins (4-5) 21 @ New Orleans Saints (7-2) 37: When looking at Washington all you can see is an average team which is why they continue to float around .500. Their loss to the Vikings all but ended their season. Traveling to New Orleans is going to make it even more unlikely that Washington makes a run at the playoffs. New Orleans, on the other hand, is on a seven-game win streak. Many are picking the Saints as the favorite to win the NFC. Washington will not be able to keep up with the Saints’ offense and fall in the Superdome.

Kansas City Chiefs (6-3) 27 @ New York Giants (1-8) 20: Kansas City is in need of a confidence builder and this is the perfect opportunity. The Chiefs have lost three of their last four games but are still one of the top teams in the AFC. The Giants are fighting for the top overall pick in the draft and are in tank mode. When this ends the score may be close but the game will never be in question. Kansas City will get back to their winning ways.

Arizona Cardinals (4-5) 24 @ Houston Texans (3-6) 21: Two or three weeks ago this would be an easy game to pick. Without DeShaun Watson, the Texans are struggling. The defense is banged up as well which means the Texans have nothing to rely on. The Cardinals are also banged up but are more prepared for the injuries they have. Arizona will ride Adrian Peterson to a win.

Sunday Afternoon

Hagan's Haus NFL picks week 11

(Photo Credit:http://www.trifectanetworksports.com)

Buffalo Bills (5-4) 14 @ Los Angeles Chargers (3-6) 24: Buffalo has made a quarterback change in the midst of a playoff race. This tells us one thing, they truly don’t believe they can make the playoffs. They are trying to get their young quarterback ready for the future with game time experience. Los Angeles plays good defense and will make it a huge challenge for Nathan Peterman. Los Angeles will win this game with a great defensive performance and two touchdown day from Melvin Gordon.

Cincinnati Bengals (3-6) 21 @ Denver Broncos (3-6) 20: Cincinnati and Denver are both 3-6 but the Bengals have looked better thus far. Cincinnati is still playing great defense while the Broncos have stopped excelling at everything. Denver will not be able to win this game because their offense is anemic. Andy Dalton will have one of the best games of his career to give the Bengals a win.

New England Patriots (7-2) 27 @ Oakland Raiders (4-5) 24: It seems like each week Oakland is playing in a must-win game. Once they get to six losses they will really be in must-win games if they want to make the playoffs. New England is still hot and rolling like they typically do. This game is in Mexico City and the Patriots have prepared for it by practicing in Denver all week. New England will win because they are going to be more prepared than Oakland.

Sunday Night

Philadelphia Eagles (8-1) 24 @ Dallas Cowboys (5-4) 27: This is an obvious trap game for Philly. All divisional games are difficult but this one will be even more difficult. The Eagles will be traveling to Jerry World to face the Cowboys who will be without Ezekiel Elliot or Sean Lee. Everyone is expecting the Eagles to win because they are both good and Dallas is banged up. If Dallas is going to win this game they are going to need a huge night from Dak Prescott. They will get it and Dallas will upset Philadelphia.

Monday Night

Atlanta Falcons (5-4) 24 @ Seattle Seahawks (6-3) 20: A win by the Falcons and they could throw themselves right into the thick of the wildcard race again. Atlanta has been struggling on offense this season but they will be able to score this week. Seattle just lost Richard Sherman for the season. He is the heart and soul of the defense and without him, the defense will lose their spark. The offensive line is also the weak unit of the offense and the Falcons will feast on it. Atlanta will win this game behind their defense.

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Featured image courtesy of www.youtube.com

NFL Week 11

Stack your money Sundays: Week 11

Week 10 Review (3-0) OVERALL: 19-9-2

Minnesota Vikings (-1) @ Washington Redskins

Minnesota Vikings 38 Washington Redskins 30

In an emotional return to the sidelines for Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum could not be stopped. Did Bridgewater’s return spark Keenum to play big, knowing that his job is on the line? Maybe, but whatever it was, keep it up Case!

The former Houston standout threw for over 300 yards and four touchdowns. He was extremely efficient, completing 21 of his 29 passes and was also never sacked in the contest. Adam Thielen had a monster day, hauling in eight receptions for 166 yards and a score.

Minnesota was also able to rush for over 100 yards, while limiting the Redskins to just 81 rushing yards on 27 carries. In the article leading up to this game, we talked about how the Vikings were ranked sixth in third-down conversions, while the Redskins ranked 19th in opposing third-down conversions. As expected, Minnesota went 8-12 on third-down conversions.

The Redskins put up a fight, as Kirk Cousins threw for 327 yards while Vernon Davis and Jamison Crowder each had 76 receiving yards. Unfortunately, their poor defense and lack of run game left them just short. They now sit at 4-5 while the Vikings are looking great at 7-2.

New York Jets @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+2.5)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 15 New York Jets 10

This was one of the ugliest games of the season. It was a double revenge game, as both quarterbacks, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown, faced off against their former teams. It literally took until 6:05 left in the fourth quarter for a touchdown to occur. Imagine paying to sit through this disaster.

Both teams were unable to rush for over 100 yards, and the Bucs won while throwing for only 187 yards and scoring one touchdown. Since 2007, teams that threw for under 190 yards, rushed for less than 100 and scored only one touchdown have a .129 winning percentage. Shout out to the Bucs for beating the odds.

New England Patriots (-7.5) @ Denver Broncos

New England Patriots 41 Denver Broncos 16

NFL Week 11

The GOAT (Photo from Boston Herald)

The Broncos have fallen so hard, and it’s honestly sad. After stopping Brady and the Patriots on the opening drive, Denver muffed the punt and gave the ball right back. From that point on, the game was over. Tom Brady continues to defy odds as he had a miraculous three-touchdown, 125.4 quarterback rating performance.

Brock Osweiler continued to do Brock Osweiler things. He was inefficient with his throws and unable to make any big plays.

To Osweiler’s defense, Denver’s D did not help him at all. They have now allowed the fourth most points in the NFL, and are second to last in defensive turnovers. So yeah, Brock isn’t great, but Denver’s defense is playing at an all-time low. They should be able to rebound this week against the Bengals.

 

WEEK 11 PICKS

Buffalo Bills @ Los Angeles Chargers (-4)

PICK: CHARGERS TO COVER

So a rookie quarterback is going on the road against a Philip Rivers team, and Rivers only has to win by four? Sign me up. Luckily, Rivers was a full participant in practice and looks ready to go.

To much surprise, Tyrod Taylor was benched in favor of Nathan Peterman, the former Pitt quarterback. As crazy as this move seems, it kind of makes sense. Under Taylor, the Bills were 30th in passing yards, 27th in first downs, 28th in total yards and 24th in passing touchdowns. Peterman, who played well in garbage time against the Saints, will most likely be handing the ball off over 30 times to a running back.

San Diego’s defense, although shaky against the run, has done a pretty solid job as far as keeping teams off the scoreboard. The Chargers rank ninth in opponent points per game and third in opponent points per play. As far as the red zone goes, they are the No. 1 defense in terms of percentage of red zone trips that end in touchdowns.

Rivers has won 60 percent of his home games in November, which is absolutely respectable. He is clearly the better quarterback, and his defense, which does a great job of not allowing points, is going up against one of the weakest offenses in the league. In their last 18 road games during the months of November-January, the Bills are 4-14. Not a good road team this late into the season.

Philadelphia Eagles (-3.5) @ Dallas Cowboys

PICK: EAGLES TO COVER

No Sean Lee means major problems for Dallas. The Cowboys fear that their star linebacker could miss several games due to his hamstring injury. Without Lee in the lineup, Dallas is a completely different defense. In Lee’s first six starts of the season, the Cowboys held opposing teams to just 80.3 rushing yards per game. In the two games he missed in October, the Cowboys allowed 164 rushing yards per game.

NFL Week 11

The favorite for MVP, Carson Wentz (Photo from The Undefeated)

When Lee was in against Atlanta, the Falcons had four carries for negative two yards. Even without Devonta Freeman for a majority of the game, Atlanta ended up with 132 yards on 34 carries.

The Eagles are arguably the best team in the NFL, and are also coming off a bye. Carson Wentz looks like the MVP of the league, as his Eagles are fourth in yards per game, second in points per play, third in third-down conversion percentage and first in red zone scoring efficiency on touchdown drives.

Not only is their offense second in the league in points per game, but Philly’s defense is tenth in the league in regards to fewest points allowed. They also do an exceptional job of defending on third down, ranking third in opposing third down percentage. When it comes to defending the run, the Eagles are first in opposing rushing yards per game, as well as opposing rushing first downs per game.

No Ezekiel Elliott and no Sean Lee might be too much for Dallas to overcome, especially against the hottest team in the league, who is fresh off a bye.

Atlanta Falcons @ Seattle Seahawks (-3)

PICK: SEAHAWKS TO COVER

Not only have you been stacking your money on Sundays, but now you should invest and stack some more on Monday.

Seattle, coming off a Thursday night win, has had an extended amount of time to prepare for this one. The Richard Sherman injury will sting, but it won’t kill this potent defense.

Matt Ryan has been shaky all year, and will most likely continue this trend on his way to Seattle. The Seahawks are allowing the fifth fewest points per game and the fourth fewest points per play. This team defends the red zone well and ranks sixth in opposing touchdowns per game. Atlanta has been an average offense that turns the ball over too much.

In his career at home in November, Russell Wilson is 11-2. Contrary to this, Ryan is 8-9 on the road in the month of November. The Seahawks offense is seventh in total yards and second in terms of total passing yards. Wilson has only thrown six interceptions and ranks in the top 10 in yards per pass.

Atlanta turns the ball over more, is on the road and has the weaker quarterback. This should be a solid win for Wilson and the Seahawks.

 

Featured image from Zimbio.com

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NFL Week 8

Stack your money Sundays: Week 8

Week 7 Review (2-0-1) OVERALL: 14-6-1

Tampa Bay Buccaneers @ Buffalo Bills (-3)

Buffalo Bills 30 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27

Our first push of the year! Rex Ryan told the world that the Bills would blow out Tampa Bay, and through the first half and into the third, it appeared like this was a solid prediction. The Bills led 17-6 with under eight minutes to play in the third quarter. A pair of O.J. Howard touchdowns knotted the game at 20.

Mike Evans hauled in a 12-yard touchdown and all of a sudden, the Buccaneers led by seven with three minutes to go. Luckily, the Bills drove down the field and a touchdown by LeSean McCoy tied the game. A fumble by Tampa Bay led to a Steven Hauschka field goal, which iced the game for Buffalo.

Like imagined, the Bills ran wild, totalling 173 yards on 33 carries, and were extremely efficient on third down, converting 10 of 16 attempts in that category.

Kudos to Jameis Winston for keeping the Bucs in this game, as he threw for almost 400 yards and threw three touchdowns. Shout out to the Bills on their 4-2 start.

Arizona Cardinals @ Los Angeles Rams (-3.5)

Los Angeles Rams 33 Arizona Cardinals 0

NFL Week 8

Cooper Krupp had 4 receptions for 51 yards and one TD in the rout. (Photo from The Daily Courier)

The Cardinals never stood a chance in this one. Carson Palmer, who left the game due to an injury, might have participated in his last NFL game.

The Cardinals might as well throw in the towel now if Drew Stanton starts another game. He looked absolutely horrendous, as he completed only five passes for 66 yards, along with an interception. Adrian Peterson, who I said would not have another big game, rushed for a grand total of 21 yards on 11 carries. As a team, the Cardinals rushed for 25 yards.

The Rams just continue to dominate. Can we put Greg Zuerlein in the MVP discussion? Another four field goal day for the best kicker in the league. Todd Gurley rushed for 106 yards and added 48 more as a receiver.

While Jared Goff did not have great numbers, he still helped the Rams convert 13 of their 19 third down attempts. The second-year quarterback continues to impress.

Atlanta Falcons @ New England Patriots (-3.5)

New England Patriots 23 Atlanta Falcons 7

The Falcons are a completely different team than last year, and last Sunday night proved it.

On a field full of fog, Atlanta was no match for Tom Brady and the Patriots. You would have thought Matt Ryan would get his team fired up and quiet down the “28-3” chants, but then you remember that Ryan is just a pretty good quarterback who had one outstanding year.

It took the Falcons almost 56 minutes to finally score, as Julio Jones caught his first touchdown of the season. Neither team turned the ball over, but Atlanta only converted on two of their nine third down attempts. New England controlled the game, as they possessed the ball for almost 10 minutes more than Atlanta. The Falcons have now lost their last three games.

 

WEEK 8 PICKS

Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) @ Detroit Lions

PICK: STEELERS TO COVER

Besides Martavis Bryant being a total distraction, things are clicking in Pittsburgh. The Steelers defense has allowed the third fewest points and second fewest yards in the league.

Detroit prides themselves on passing the football, but it will be hard against this Pittsburgh D, who has allowed the fewest passing yards in the league. Le’Veon Bell is back and has rushed for 179 yards against the Chiefs and 134 more last week against Cincinnati.

NFL Week 8

JuJu on that beat! (Photo from The Big Lead)

Big Ben Roethlisberger is also playing better and is a perfect 3-0 against Detroit in his career. The narrative that Matthew Stafford only wins against bad teams is back again this year. Detroit beat a bad Cardinals team, a one-win Giants team and a Case Keenum led team. Their losses have come against the Panthers, Falcons and Saints, all solid teams with big-name quarterbacks.

Detroit’s defense is 28th in points allowed, and their offense is 25th in red zone scoring attempts. Pittsburgh loves to possess the football, as they rank third in time of possession and fourth in red zone attempts. The Steelers are clearly the better football team.

Atlanta Falcons (-6) @ New York Jets

PICK: FALCONS TO COVER

The Falcons are not playing well, and as stated before, have lost three straight. That is exactly why they are about to molly-whop the Jets. The media has been bashing them all week for being just an average team, led by an average quarterback. Matt Ryan shuts up the haters this week. I refuse to believe that the Falcons will lose to all four AFC East teams.

Even with their struggles, Atlanta is clearly the superior team. They are seventh in passing yards per game and fourth in yards per carry. The more Atlanta runs, the better off they will be, especially this week against the Jets, who are 28th in rushing yards allowed. The Falcons offense averages more plays than anyone, rank second in average time per drive and fifth in first downs per game.

No matter what their record says, the Jets are not a good team. Their offense is dead last in first downs, 22nd in passing yards and 30th in red zone attempts per game. New York’s defense is tied for the most passing touchdowns allowed and are currently 25th in yards allowed. Matt Ryan will have a huge game against this lackluster Jets team.

Oakland Raiders (+2.5) @ Buffalo Bills

PICK: RAIDERS TO COVER

Oakland is coming off a monster win against the Chiefs in which they picked up 32 first downs. Derek Carr looks healthy after his monster 417 yard, three touchdown performance last week.

Still, Oakland is 3-4 and needs to win games like this one on the road. Last year, Carr was 7-1 in opposing stadiums. In their matchup a season ago, Oakland beat the Bills by 14.

The Raiders rushing defense is improving. After allowing 95 yards or more in their first five games, the Raiders have shut down the run in the last two weeks. Marshawn Lynch is suspended, but it really doesn’t matter since he is not playing like the Marshawn that we are used to. Buffalo is 26th in passing yards allowed, so look for Carr to abuse this secondary.

Although Tyrod Taylor looks good, he will not win you big games. The Bills are 29th in passing yards and 26th in first downs. They run a ton, as they rank second in rushing attempts, but it is not effective. The Bills are currently 24th in yards per carry.

Expect Oakland to come out the gates and score early, as they rank in the top 10 in first quarter points. The Bills are dead last in this category, which means this game could be out of hand early.

 

Featured image by USA Today

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Houston Texans receivers fantasy

Fantasy football: Week five quarterbacks to pick up

If you owned and had high hopes for, Derek Carr this season, you just took a hit. Maybe you own Drew Brees or Matt Ryan and need to find a quick and effective fill in. If that’s the case, this list is for you. Here are three streaming options at quarterback in week five.

Case Keenum/Sam Bradford (Minnesota Vikings)

fantasy football: week five quarterbacks

billypenn.com

Usually I’m against taking a Vikings quarterback for fantasy reasons. They’re a team who usually stays in games with their defense and run game, while not relying heavily on the passing attack. Now they go up against a Chicago defense who has allowed 15.8 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.

Sam Bradford looked sharp in the season opener, backing up his chemistry with Stefon Diggs. On track to return in week five, Sam Bradford could be big for the Vikings this week. An ineffective run game may help his case.

With Dalvin Cook out for the season and Latavius Murray still nursing an ankle injury that required surgery, the Vikings run game will not be as effective as it has been so far this season.

The Vikings may have to resort to more of a passing game against the Bears, and with weapons like Kyle Rudolph, Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, whoever starts for the Vikings has the opportunity to put up big numbers and should be a solid streaming option at quarterback.

Deshaun Watson (Houston Texans)

Wow, what a game from rookie Deshaun Watson. I don’t think anyone expected him to go off against a good Titans defense like he did in week four. With 283 passing yards and five total touchdowns while leading the Texans to a franchise-record 57 points scored, Deshaun Watson was a top the player rankings last week.

Now the undefeated Kansas City Chiefs come into town looking to knock off the surging Texans. The Chiefs have been stout against opposing quarterbacks giving up only 14 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks.

I definitely think that Deshaun Watson is worth a start after coming off of the week he had, but this pickup is also for the future. In week six, the Browns travel to play the Texans and they’ve given up a whopping 21 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks, including 27 to Jacoby Brissett.

Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)

fantasy football: week five quarterbacks

azcardinals.co

Carson Palmer is an interesting fantasy quarterback. He isn’t the most consistent player but he still seems to put up 15+ fantasy points per week. The Cardinals travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles and their thin secondary. Palmer doesn’t have the greatest weapons but he can always rely on the age-less Larry Fitzgerald.

Palmer has a 5:5 touchdown to interception ratio so he does make a lot of mistakes, and he’s missing one of his top pass catchers in David Johnson. However, he has thrown for 300+ yards in each of his last three games and threw three of his five interceptions in the first game of the season.

The Eagles have allowed almost 17 fantasy points per game to opposing quarterbacks and are definitely a team that Carson Palmer can torch if put in your lineup this week.

 

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Feature Image courtesy of (Photo by: chron.com)

Dalvin Cook injury fantasy football

Fantasy football injury: Dalvin Cook

The Minnesota Vikings can’t seem to get the monkey off their backs. Last year, running back Adrian Peterson tore his meniscus in week 2. This Sunday in week 4 against the Detroit Lions, the Vikings fear that rookie running back Dalvin Cook has damage to his ACL.

In the third quarter, he tried making a cut, but his left knee gave out. He was helped off the field where he was able to walk on his own. However, an update reported by NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero saw Cook leaving the locker room in crutches and with his knee in a brace. This most likely means that his season looks to be over.

This is a big blow to the Vikings’ offense. He was a huge factor who benefited from an upstart passing game. In fantasy, it’s a bigger blow trying to replace Cook, a RB2 or flex on most teams.

First Look: Replace Him with Latavius Murray

After Cook’s injury, running backs Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon led the rushing tandom. Let me say this first: don’t expect them to be phenomenal starters for your fantasy team.

Dalvin Cook injury fantasy football

Latavius Murray (Photo by: fanragsports.com_

But in hindsight, Murray has more fantasy appeal then McKinnon. Murray will be the guy that will get more looks to run the ball. Last year, he was a touchdown-heavy back behind a terrific offensive line with the Oakland Raiders. Murray had seven carries for 21 yards on Sunday after the injury.

Murray can’t play every down like Cook, but expect him to get most of the early-down and goal-line work. He is capable of handling this type of workload as he scored 12 touchdowns last year with Oakland. He can excel behind this offensive line as they have been surprisingly good.

McKinnon can be looked at, but mostly for PPR leagues if you’re desperate. He will be in the mix as the feature back, but not as much as Murray.

McKinnon hasn’t had the opportunity to run the ball much. Even though he had a career-high 159 carries last year, he only averaged 3.4 yards per carry. McKinnon will handle most of the pass work, whether as the running back or in the wildcat.

I expect Murray to be the most sought player added to fantasy teams, not just to those who have Cook, but to those who need any running back help because of his role down at the goal-line.

Other options

For those who like to play the best matchups, give Aaron Jones of the Green Bay Packers a look. He plays the Dallas Cowboys next week, who were torched by Todd Gurley this past Sunday. Even though Dallas is in the middle of the pack in rushing defense, they aren’t the best defense. If Ty Montgomery (ribs) isn’t badly injured, Jones could get the majority of snaps, even if the original back Jamaal Williams (knee) plays.

Jones had a solid outing against the Bears, running for 49 yards and a score on 13 carries. Both him and Williams could be decent pickups this week if Montgomery misses a couple of weeks.

Another guy to look at if you need a flex filler is wide receiver Will Fuller V of the Houston Texans. He will be a popular pickup after his performance coming back from a broken collarbone. He found the end zone twice in week 4 against the Tennessee Titans on four catches for 35 yards. He’s off to a good start, matching his touchdowns from last season. With the Texans’ offense looking confident, he could be a guy you give a crack on.

Fantasy Outlook on Vikings players

As I mentioned, this has a big affect on all Viking players. Cook created a solid game, which helped create the passing game. Now with him and Bradford both hurt, the Viking offense won’t be the same. After his injury, it all went downhill for the Vikings on Sunday.

Dalvin Cook injury fantasy football

Case Keenum and Sam Bradofrd (Photo by: sportingnews.com)

As for Murray, who I expect to start, he is a RB3 in week 5 against the Chicago Bears. If Bradford plays, receivers Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph are must starts.

For future reference, if you have Viking players on your fantasy team, have quality backups. They have bad luck when it comes to non-contact knee injuries. First Teddy Bridgewater in 2016, then Bradford and now Cook.

 

Featured image from tomahawknation.com.

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